The Toronto City Council voted 39-3 on Friday to strip controversial Mayor Rob Ford of key executive powers.

Just before the council voted, Ford addressed the chamber and threatened to take legal action, saying he was concerned about setting a precedent that could affect future mayors.

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"If someone else steps out of line as I have, it will affect mayors for years to come," he said. "I can't support it. I completely understand where they come from."

He also said he regretted the cost to taxpayers of a legal battle over the council's action, but that he felt he had no choice.

Under the vote, Ford technically remains mayor, but no longer maintains powers, delegated to him by the council, to appoint key committee committee chairs or the deputy mayor's seat.

The council, however, does not have to legal authority to remove the mayor from office.

During the morning hearing, Ford frequently stood up from his seat on the council floor and walked around speaking to members, including his brother, council member Doug Ford.

Council member John Filion said before the vote that the steps were being taken "reluctantly" and "sadly." He said the council had "reached the point where this is both warranted and necessary" to end a "chaotic situation."

"If there is a silver lining in this sad situation, this issue has united members of this council like they haven't been united for a period of this term of office," FIlion said.

The council -- which has already called on him to resign -- stepped up the pressure after the 44-year-old mayor shocked Canadians on live TV with graphic language that surpassed even his most raunchy offerings.

It was only the latest in a series of can-you-top-this incidents involving the combative mayor of Canada's largest city.

It stems from a report several months ago of a video that showed Ford smoking crack cocaine. Ford initially denied the report, but eventually acknowledged it after Toronto police said they had a copy of the video. Ford said the incident occurred while he was in a drunken stupor.

The City Council's moved to take stronger action Friday after Ford gave an impromptu morning news conference on Thursday in which Ford denied allegations by some of his former staff members that he had partied with prostitutes, snorted cocaine and used OxyContin.

The allegations were contained in a police report released as a court document on Wednesday.

Ford, in his heated morning statement, railed against his former staffers and their allegations, and threatened to sue them. He was particularly irate about an allegation that he had performed oral sex on one of his female staffers.

In graphic remarks, carried live on TV as reporters surrounded him, Ford said: "(The police document) says I wanted to eat her (expletive). I've never said that in my life to her. I would never do that. I'm happily married. I've got more than enough to eat at home."

On Thursday afternoon, in a second hastily called news conference, Ford apologized for the obscene remarks he made to reporters earlier in the day and acknowledged for the first time that he is getting professional help for his drinking problem.

In a brief statement, with his wife, Renata, by his side, the embattled mayor - who has already acknowledged smoking crack cocaine and buying illegal drugs - said that he has been under "tremendous, tremendous stress" for the past six months. He also said he was getting health-care "support."

Afterward, the premier of Ontario indicated for the first time that the provincial government might intervene, calling the Ford spectacle "truly disturbing."

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